Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

So wish Aaron Swartz was still alive… this is such a tragedy and his prosecution such a farce. What a wonderful human being we have lost!

“A lot of money came his way when Reddit was sold to Condé Nast in 2006, but relocation to an office made him miserable. Google offered him jobs, but he turned them down as unexciting. Political campaigning became his passion. He wanted to see everything available online, free, with nothing held back by elites or big money, and nothing censored. Information was power, as he proclaimed in his Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto of 2008, and war was needed “by stealth”, “in the dark”, “underground”, for the freedom to connect. In 2011 there was no fiercer voice against the Stop Online Piracy Act, and in 2012 no one prouder to proclaim it dead.

The JSTOR business, however, got him into deep trouble. When he went back to the cupboard for his laptop, police arrested him. He was charged on 13 counts, including wire fraud and theft of information, and was to go on trial in the spring, facing up to 35 years of jail. The charges, brought by a federal prosecutor, were hugely disproportionate to what he had done; MIT and JSTOR had both settled with him, and JSTOR, as if chastened by him, had even opened some of its public-domain archive. But theft was theft, said the prosecution.

All this added to a weight that had oppressed him for many years. “Look up, not down,” he urged readers of his weblog; “Embrace your failings.” “Lean into the pain.” It was hard to take that advice himself. He kept getting ill, several illnesses at once. Migraines sliced into his scalp; his body burned. And he was sad most of the time, a sadness like streaks of pain running through him. Books, friends, philosophy, even blogs didn’t help. He just wanted to lie in bed and keep the lights off.

In 2002 he posted instructions for after his death (though I’m not dead yet! he added). To be in a grave would be all right, as long as he had access to oxygen and no dirt on top of him; and as long as all the contents of his hard drives were made publicly available, nothing deleted, nothing withheld, nothing secret, nothing charged for; all information out in the light of day, as everything should be.”

Aaron Swartz, computer programmer and activist, committed suicide on January 11th, aged 26

Aaron Swartz
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